The Scriba eBook Maker, an open source tool to create documents for e-readers, is helping to reduce the wasting of paper in the Italian Parliament. Senators are increasingly combining smart phones and tablet devices with the Scriba e-document service, offering them a practical access to all kinds of documents.
Scriba eBook Maker publishes documents in the platform independent ePub format, optimising lay-out and text for each and every display. It also converts documents in other but less e-Reader-friendly formats, including HTML, pdf and XML. "The user experience is much better when documents are published in the ePub format", say Roberto Battistoni, main developer on the project, and Carlo Marchetti, head of the IT Development Office of the Senate.
For now Scriba is used mainly through the enterprise service 'www.senato.it/ebook' and 'tablet.senato.it', services accessible over the Internet. The developers are adding other ways to access: "This is just the beginning."
Scriba has been developed in about three months, earlier this year. It is still an experimental service, aiming to reduce the amount of paper circulating within in the Italian Senate. The original idea came from the Senate Press Office, that wanted to offer a service for delivering Senate information and press agencies in eBook format.
Scriba is written in Java and it can be used as a command line utility or offered as an enterprise service, deployed on Tomcat or JBoss application servers. The tool now creates eBooks in ePub, Zip and soon also Kindle formats.
Easy to integrate
"It is not a huge project", say Battistoni and Marchetti. "It is easy to integrate, extend and evolve. It is written in a mainstream language and it is well-documented. It is uncomplicated to use and relatively painless to customise, using plugins: specific classes of Java logic to transform content when needed."
Scriba uses many open source libraries, including the Apache Commons Project for general Java language feature, JTidy to clean HTML and PDFBox to transform PDFs.
The tool is published under the GPLv3 licence. "We adopted the GPLv3 to give maximum openness. The GPLv3 also permits us to use all the third party OS libraries that we use."
The developers have not yet considered using the EUPL, the European Union's open source licence. "We hope that the EUPL and the GPLv3 will eventually be interoperable."
The project is hosted on Sourceforge. "We already have another open source project on Sourceforge, Tafweb. It is a well-known open source software development hosting service, so it is a natural choice for us. Many of us come from the private or academic sector and have earlier published open source projects on Sourceforge."